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Malawi: Teenage husband kills pregnant wife

08 July 2016, 11:46Brian Ligomeka, News24 Correspondent

Blantyre - A 19-year-old teenager Anderson Chiwala from eastern Malawi’s district of Machinga has been arrested for allegedly murdering his 20-year-old pregnant wife, Ester Usuman.

Some neighbours of the couple said the youthful couple was engaged in physical fights despite the condition of the wife.
Usuman fell ill after being beaten by her husband and was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.
A police officer in the district John Gwaza said medical examinations revealed that the deceased sustained serious internal injuries following physical assault.

According to Gwaza, the teenage husband will face murder charges.

Bizwick Chimumba, a relative of the deceased wife, said the two married two years ago when both of them were teenagers.

“There are always challenges when people marry at a young age,” he said.

Child marriages

Despite government efforts to end them, child marriages involving persons under the age of 18 were still rampant in Malawi. 

Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said that child marriages were common in rural areas but said government was fighting hard to end the problem.

She said Malawi had annulled 300 000 child marriages and sent back most teenage brides to schools last year.

“Vigorous campaigns by the government officials, civil society groups, traditional leaders and churches have borne sweet fruits. About 300 000 child marriages were dissolved last year,” Kaliati said.

Kaliati also attributed the achievement to the enactment of the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations which has pushed the marriage age from 16 to 18.

Despite the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act pegging the marriage age at 18, conflicting legislation made the minimum age of marriage ambiguous in Malawi.

The provisions of Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill Act could not overwrite the Constitution, which stipulated that girls and boys aged 15 to 18 could marry with parental consent.

Source of income 

The contradiction came in as the Malawi Constitution did not specifically prohibit the marriage of children under 15, but merely directed the government to “discourage” them.

Child marriages were regarded as a source of income, as the girls’ families got payment of dowry (lobola).

Government statistics showed that between 2010 and 2013, at least 28 000 girls in primary and 4 053 girls in secondary schools dropped out due to marriage. During the same period, another 14 051 primary school girls and 5 597 secondary school girls dropped out because they were pregnant.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had repeatedly been urging Malawi to increase efforts to end widespread child and forced marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy and preventable maternal deaths.

HRW’s 69-page report titled, ‘I’ve Never Experienced Happiness’: Child Marriage in Malawi,” observed that child marriage prevented girls and women from participating in all spheres of life. 

“The practice violates the rights to health, to education, to be free from physical, mental, and sexual violence, and to marry only when able and willing to give free and full consent,” read the report in part. 

- News24


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